Usagui – Té Japonés & Café

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Last week I visited a charming Japanese teahouse in Barcelona called Usagui (which means Rabbit in English), a lovely place where you can find a nice selection of Japanese teas as well as a variety of sweets and desserts (including mochi!).

I ordered a Sencha Fukamushi, an exquisite deep steamed and spring tea that I particularly loved. Fukamushi refers to the steaming time of the tea leaves in the production process of the Sencha, being this one the longest one (two minutes approximately). This is a beautiful tea: grassy, rich in flavour with a buttery feel to it and a vivid green colour.

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My tea came in a small clay teapot in a square wooden tray. It had been already brewed, as they took care of the water temperature and the steeping time of the tea beforehand. Then I kindly asked for a second and third infusion and they gave me precise instructions on how to do it each time. For the second infusion they suggested 80 seconds and then serve “until the last drop”. For the third time, only  30 seconds and then pour again, “until the last drop” and so I did. It is said that the last drops are the most important ones as they are more concentrated in flavour and can even determine the final taste of the tea…

I also tried an iced apple kocha (black tea) and a fruit pannacotta. Both very delicate and refreshing.

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The teahouse is very minimalistic and intimate, ideal for a peaceful afternoon with a nice cup of Japanese tea…

Thank you Usagui, until next time!

Usagui. Santjoanistes 28, 08006.

Hello summer, hello cold-brewed teas!

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Cold brewing is a very simple method to prepare iced tea. As simple as it sounds it consists in brewing tea leaves in cold water. The chemical extraction of the tea is slower and it leaves its original flavour almost intact. The result is a smoother, less bitter and lighter tea due to less caffeine and catechins extracted in the process.

As the days are getting warmer and sunnier, this is a lovely time to make cold-brewed iced teas. Here are five easy steps to prepare them:

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- Find jar or a jug preferably with a lid.

- Add an equivalent of one and a half or two teaspoons of tea for each cup or glass.

- Fill with cold water and let it steep for the night. You can also play with the brewing time and choose between 5 to 12 hours depending on how strong you like it.

- Drain it and add some ice cubes, fresh fruits or aromatic herbs.

- Serve chilled and enjoy!

Tip: You can use any tea you would like (white, green, blue) but remember loose-leaf tea is always the best choice!

Happy summer!

Mug or cup?

 

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There are obvious differences between a mug and a cup in terms of shapes, materials, sizes and styles, but one of the main ones is that a cup is usually used with a saucer and a mug without it. However, I personally think the differences go a bit further…

For me a mug is synonymous of comfort; it is the experience of just making the usual cup of tea –even sometimes half awake, half asleep- early in the mornings. It is also the choice for a lazy Sunday when you are reading the newspaper of just checking emails, staying late in bed and having a tasty brunch. I pick a mug when it is cold outside and I need a big “cup of tea” to warm me up or when I want to carry it with me while working around the house.

I choose a cup when I want to think about my tea, when I want the experience of drinking it to be special and delicate. It is like a boost as it definitely makes it taste better. A cup involves choosing the “right” one for that special tea or occasion and then serving it. It is a more sophisticated pleasure I guess. In a cup every sip counts, the brightness and the sound of the porcelain make everything even more special.

Cups and mugs are there to please our palate and mood, as they are a great complement to our tea. I believe that, although it might feel automatic, we are very careful about our choice, as we know it will “define” the way we drink and enjoy our tea.

 

Venue Magazine: Iced tea for the summer!

We are thrilled to appear on the cover of Venue Magazine’s May issue with an article about Iced tea for the summer! It is written in Spanish but it has beautiful images and many recommendations that you cannot miss. If you have any questions about it or want to know more, please feel free to contact me. I will be more than happy to hear from you!

Find the complete article here!

Enjoy and happy Friday!

Cover revista Venue May 2014

Gyokuro

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Michael Harney refers to Gyokuro’s aroma as: “Very spinachy and seaweedy, dark and decidedly vegetal, with none of the lemon sheen of Sencha. Lovely and soothing, like a hearty spinach soup simmering on the kitchen stove”.Could you think of a better way of describing the aroma and essence of this tea..?

Gyokuro is one of the finest and most expensive teas in Japan as it is considered to be the highest grade of tea in the country. Its production demands expertise and careful handling. It involves shading the tea crops for two or three weeks before the harvest begins and it’s precisely this procedure what gives this tea most of its precious qualities. The shade makes the photosynthesis process to reduce and the plant to produce more chlorophyll and higher levels of theanines, making the tea so rich in flavor. It also gives the leaves the distinctive deep green color and a less astringent infusion compared to other Senchas. The result is a beautiful pale green liquor (also known as “Jade Dew”) with a mellow sweet taste and a medium body. Harney describes it as “The lush green flavour of the freshest steamed spinach, the cooked flavour of roasted walnuts, and very slight note of sulphur. Filling and sustaining”.

I have tried this tea several times and I must say that each time it surprises me as if it were the first one. Once you try it you won’t forget about it. Similar to when you taste a fine champagne or an exquisite perfume… So many years of tradition and fine craftsmanship can’t go wrong…

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Can you spot the flower?

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Some teas are not just to be drunk but also to be contemplated and appreciated. This handcrafted piece of flower or blooming tea is made of sewed green tea leaves and flower petals that once brewed, unfurls like a blooming flower.

In this occasion I brewed my blooming tea it in a gaiwan with just the amount of water for a cup and let it steep for five minutes or more. I used the water temperature of a white tea so I could brew it for a longer time without the liquor getting too strong or too bitter.

I was surprised about its taste. These types of teas usually lack on flavour as they have more of an aesthetic purpose, but in this case the result was lovely. It was delicate but still very aromatic and flowery with a sweet honey-like aftertaste. The bundle developed into a beautiful bright deep pink chrysanthemum flower.

This is a tea that instantly catches your attention and delights your senses.

Allow the power of the flowers impregnate your sight, your smell and your palate…!

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Travelling with tea

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I like to carry tea with me when I travel. I usually pick one of my favourites, a small infuser and put it into my carry on or suitcase and I am ready to go. Because having a nice cup of tea is a pleasure that it is so easy to satisfy but, sometimes, so hard to accomplish when you are abroad, discovering new places. Whether you are staying at a friend’s house, a hotel or a rented flat it is always comforting to have cup of a special tea. It is that feeling of serenity and coziness that puts you in the right mood to start the trip.

Travelling has become a bit of a stressful experience in many ways especially at airports with the security measures and the prohibited goods, but tea is still something safe to travel with. So don’t be afraid to take some with you. The last time I flew from London to Barcelona I had lots of samples of loose-leaf tea blends that I had made and, when packing, I was dubious because I didn’t know if I was going to have problems in Customs. I checked many forums online and everybody said it was ok but I actually left some and took only the most important ones with me just in case. As they were samples I labeled them and, as soon as I arrived at the airport, I asked Security about it and they said that it was fine as long as I didn’t carry liquids with me. So the key is not to have liquids, everything else should be fine. In the end it is just tea!

At Heathrow they said to me -in a very friendly way- “you like tea, huh?”

Yes, I do. Tea always feels like home!

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